Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

Wild Fermentation

February 12, 2007

anita lozinska's pickles
My friend Anita Lozinska made these pickles last summer in Poland, where they know a thing or two about pickle making. These are perfect pickles.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if I believed in the theory that we should eat foods according to our blood and body types, according to our ethnicity. I laughed it off and changed the subject, trying to avoid one of those discussions where ethnicity and culture get all jumbled up and folks start saying the strangest things that set my ears on fire.

But on my bike ride home, buffeted by the cold and the rain, I could think of only one thing: a comforting bowl of sauerkraut and an ice cold glass of high fat kefir. In the cold and dreary 7, I mean 8 months of the year that is winter in the Polar Circle, I rode out of my way, in to the wind, to get some fermented food. Unpacking my bags at home, I had the most romantic soft focus vision of sinking into a massive pillow, bowl of sauerkraut in one hand and a glass of kefir at my side. Turns out that I had left the bag of sauerkraut at the checkout and I nearly broke into tears.

anita lozinska's pickles
Yes, I drink pickle brine. Got a problem with that? In some cultures they use it as a base for soups.

For some people that would have been a chocolate moment, but for me that was a fermented food moment. Gawd how I love the fermented food.

And what made the moment all the more tragic was that Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz had just arrived in the post, and reading this book on the couch with the sauerkraut and the kefir was part of a snuggly feel-good scenario in which I was going to be the star. Pity the check out space out had to ruin it all. But the glass half full in me told me that this was a lesson: start fermenting my own (dang) food (oops).

Sandor Ellix Katz, Wild Fermentation
If you like fermented foods, you will love this book.

I’ll write more about Katz’ book in the next days, but here are some images of some of the pickling I’ve been doing.

Carrots and salt

Carrots soaking in brine
Making pickled carrots

Raw root vegetables and certain cruciferous vegetables are simply better tasting when they’ve been fermented. I would never have eaten this many raw carrots if they hadn’t been pickled and peppered first.

Pickled carrots and beets
Pickled carrots and beets, ready for the fridge

Same with the beets. Raw I said.

Red cabbage sauerkraut
Red cabbage sauerkraut next to a new batch weighed down with a jar of homemade kimchi

Why red cabbage sauerkraut isn’t sold and eaten all over the world, I shall never know. In the past weeks I am responsible for the consumption of 3 heads of cabbage. I would never EVER have eaten that much red cabbage raw. Sometimes I feel cheated by the pinched Calvinism of the raw food movement.

debra at 20:28 | | post to


  1. i must know your pickle secrets! i can’t find a pickle in this here kentucky place, fer nuttin’. i just made my first pickled mushroom. they were pretty daggone fine, but red sauerkraut? that’s ten kinds of awesome.

    Comment by robiewankenobie — March 4, 2007 @ 16:15

  2. Your red sauerkraut is gorgeous. Will you please share your recipe?

    Comment by Anna — October 15, 2007 @ 14:56

  3. How did your beets turn out? Everything i have read they must be cooked. I have some quartered raw skin on beets in the crock now along with other mixed vegitable.These are my 1st beets.

    Comment by stan — November 6, 2007 @ 22:04

  4. I’ve wanted that book for a while! But I *just* tasted my first successful batch of raw sauerkraut today, using a blend of advice from the interwebs! Is springtime the secret sauerkraut season or something?

    I used red and green cabbage, carrots, celtic salt, a pinch of pro-biotic powder and about 20 juniper berries, which turned out to be my favorite part - they taste amazing. This sat on my counter top for 4 days, until there was a half inch of discolored kraut at the top which was beginning to scare me so I scooped and discarded and taste-tested and it was perfect!

    Comment by elarael — April 23, 2008 @ 9:49

  5. It’s a great book, if for no other reason than to inspire us to ferment things.

    Isn’t it magical the way it just ‘goes’? When I’m in the city, it’s like having a garden…

    Keep up the good work.

    Comment by Debra van Culiblog — April 23, 2008 @ 10:10

  6. Ethnic ? I have lots of friends from Different lands, Cuba, El salvador, Taiwan, India. I find people crave food that is from their home country. But eat non-native foods everyday. Oh Pickles … I’ve got 75lb of salt, come to Oregon and we’ll make kimchi and deer jerky…!!!

    Comment by jeff Pool — January 2, 2010 @ 19:49

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